André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) may have won the opening stage of the 2012 Santos Tour Down Under but the German sprint ace was clearly unhappy about the day of racing that he and the rest of the peloton had to endure.
Greipel, who won in a photo finish from Lampre-ISD's Alessandro Petacchi on the 149 kilometre stage from Prospect to Clare, north of Adelaide, believes that race organisers let the peloton down by having a downhill sprint into the finish. The final kilometre was marred by a crash which took out a large section of the peloton. Greipel lost ground due to the spill and considered himself "lucky" to have even been in contention for the podium.
"We did 150km today and why did we have to do a downhill sprint?" the two-time winner of the event said. "I mean, okay it's a part of our job, nobody tells us that we have to sprint, but the organisation should calculate the risk a little bit for us."
Pressed on whether he believed the final section of the parcours was dangerous, Greipel paused before explaining: "We did 75km/h and if there's something that happens you cannot react anymore.
"Of course it was a headwind so just imagine if it's a tailwind. We’d have come here with 80-85km/h."
The cause of the crash was due to a spectator, an elderly woman, standing on the edge of the road who was clipped by a Vacansoleil rider, believed to be Kenny Van Hummel, who in turn brought the peloton down.
The end result was that Matteo Montaguti (AG2R-La Mondiale) was taken to SportsMed in Adelaide for precautionary x-rays on his collarbone; Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) was transported to Royal Adelaide Hospital for precautionary x-rays on his neck while Frederic Guesdon (FDJ-BigMat) was also sent there for x-rays on what was believed to be a broken hip.
"My reports tell me three riders were tangled up jockeying for positions on the right hand side, because the wind was coming from the left," explained race director Mike Turtur.
"They went down and it brought down about 20-30 riders, I don't know exactly. Some of them slid off into the dirt and a lady spectator was hit... The woman is fine."
Turtur did however reject Greipel's concern over a dangerous parcours and said that the peloton had been told what to look for prior to the race.
"It's dead-straight, straight as an arrow finish - at the technical meeting, everyone was advised it was slightly downhill, so it was going to be fast," he explained.
"We couldn't have emphasised it more."
Turtur said that he would speak with Greipel to discuss any concerns the German had.
It is the second year running that Turtur has been forced to defend his opening stages, following the "mayhem in Mannum" that marred the 2011 event, when a crash on the run into the finish of stage 2 took out sprinters Mark Cavendish, Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo).
Roelandts a loss
Greipel was understandably upset by the loss of Roelandts for the rest of the week, who was considered to be Lotto-Belisol's main general classification contender alongside Adam Hansen.
"He's one of my main lead-out guys," Greipel said. "He's one of the strongest also for the GC – he can climb good, he can sprint good. He would have been a good option."
Regardless, Greipel admitted that Tuesday's stage was one of the toughest he'd experienced at the Australian race, especially when it came to the extreme heat with temperatures on the road reported to be as high as 49 degrees Celsius.
"It was not healthy anymore for me," Greipel said. "I think the others also had the same conditions but for me it was really, really hard today."
Another issue that clearly upset Greipel was the sprint of Alessandro Petacchi with the 29-year-old adamant that the Italian deviated off his line.
"It's a rule to stay in line for the sprint," Greipel stated. "He went from the left to the right and I could manage to stay on my bike. I think he didn't care what happened behind him. Maybe he didn't see me but I think it was just not fair."